Offseason Outlook: Toronto Raptors

May 26 at 10:25pm CST By Zach Links

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (20th overall)
  • 2nd Round (37th overall)
  • 2nd Round (59th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $39,273,626
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $12,090,880
  • Cap Holds: $28,523,916
  • Total: $79,888,422

We all spent last summer talking about the Nets and Knicks.  In retrospect, we should have paid some attention to the Raptors.  Yes, Brooklyn bested the Raptors in a hard-fought seven game series, but the Raptors were the best team in the Atlantic Division from wire-to-wire, playing their way to a 48 win season when few had them pegged as a playoff team.

The single biggest reason for Toronto’s success in 2013/14 was the outstanding play of Kyle Lowry.  The veteran was never heralded as one of the top point guards in basketball, but this past season put him squarely in the conversation.  After averaging a career-high 17.9 PPG and 7.4 APG (and a career-high 20.1 PER), Lowry is set to hit the open market and figures to see a significant pay raise on a multi-year deal.  Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke has made no secret of his desire to keep the 28-year-old in Toronto.

There’s a really special bond between [GM] Masai [Ujiri] and Kyle,” Leiweke said in April. “This town should be in love with this guy. What a great story. He’s vented that anger and energy that he had last year, and it was sometimes aimed at the refs, sometimes aimed at other people. He’s figured out how to vent that and put that into the team, and this team truly loves each other.”

While it’s true that Toronto historically hasn’t been a prime free agent destination, Lowry has found a home in more ways than one with the Raptors.  The Raptors hold Lowry’s bird rights and they have just ~$39MM in commitments on the books for 2014/15.  There will be plenty of suitors desperate for a solid veteran PG like Lowry, but it would be a surprise to see him go elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the Raptors took care of their second-biggest free agent: head coach Dwane Casey.  After guiding Toronto to a record that pretty much no one saw coming, the veteran coach was rewarded with a three-year deal that will pay him roughly $4MM per season.  With a number of openings this summer, Casey was likely to get major offers elsewhere, so it was very prudent of Raptors management to wrap him up early in the offseason.

With some financial flexibility in their favor, the Raptors could do something that was unthinkable just a few years ago: bring back Vince Carter.  The Mavericks veteran is coming off of a three-year, $9.3MM deal in Dallas and Mark Cuban may not have enough wiggle room to keep him.  Carter is still going strong at 37 and would be a solid addition to the Raptors, as well as a feel-good story, though he says he would welcome a new deal with the Mavericks.  We’re not so sure that Air Canada wouldn’t fly back home if the money was right.

Lowry is the most important free agent on the roster but he’s not the only one.  The well-traveled Patrick Patterson is a restricted free agent.  He showed promise at times and averaged 9.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 23 minutes per contest for the Raps.  Patterson is an adept three-point shooter who nailed 41.1% of his shots from downtown for Toronto and may seek out an opportunity with more playing time.  He’s not in line for a massive deal but a better opportunity to showcase himself could set him up for a bigger contract in the future.

The Raptors finished the season with two of their summer league invites on the roster.  Dwight Buycks and Julyan Stone found their respective niches on the bench and it’s a safe bet that their inexpensive team options, $816K and $948K ($100K guaranteed) respectively, will be exercised.  Still, one has to imagine that they’ll push for new deals and the Raptors may choose to lock them up on mulii-year pacts before they can increase their value further next season.

In addition to having a bit of cap room, the Raptors also have an opportunity to improve through the draft.  Toronto has three picks: their first round pick selection (20th overall) and two second round picks, the No. 37 (via the Kings) and No. 59 (via the Thunder).  While the Raptors are still somewhat future-minded, they got a taste of winning this season and they presumably want to position themselves for a deep playoff run in 2014/15.  It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Raptors move one or both of their second round picks and take calls on their No. 20 overall pick.  The Raptors also have 2012 second-round pick Tomislav Zubcic stashed overseas, so they’ve already got a young prospect in the pipeline.

If the Raptors move those picks, they’ll likely target a backup center to support Jonas Valanciunas.  They could also go for a veteran athletic wing player if they can’t rope VC back to his original club.  John Salmons and Landry Fields were charged with this role last season and neither made a tremendous impact.  Salmons gave the Raptors some solid D when he came over this season but averaged just 5 PPG and 2.0 RPG in ~21 minutes per game.  Fields, who has yet to justify his three-year, $20MM contract, lost most of the season to injury.  If they turn to free agency, affordable bigs on the open market could include Drew Gooden and Malcolm Thomas (non-guaranteed deal).  There are also intriguing free agent veteran wings such as Danny Granger and Marvin Williams available.  If the Raptors want to make a major addition instead, they could put themselves in the mix for Cavs free agent small forward Luol Deng.  Many reports have indicated that Deng is unhappy in Cleveland and it stands to reason that he could make a bee line to a winning club.

The Raptors will look to re-load this summer, but improvements from within are probably more central to their success next season.  If Valanciunas and Terrence Ross can take another step forward and DeMar DeRozan progresses the way we expect him to, the Raptors should find themselves at or near the top of the Atlantic with a chance to make some noise in the postseason.

Cap footnotes

* — The Raptors waived Camby in July 2013. Guaranteed money remained on the contract, even though Camby agreed to give up $2MM in a buyout arrangement.
** — Salmons’ salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before June 30th.
*** — Hansbrough’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before June 29th.
**** — Stone’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 7th.
***** — Buycks’ salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 22nd.
****** — Patterson’s qualifying offer would be $4,268,609.
******* — Vasquez’s qualifying offer would be $4,677,708.
******** — De Colo’s qualifying offer would be $1,828,750.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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